Review by Fiona Jerome
This second Fantagraphics volume of Maakies strips, The House At Maakies Corner by Tony Millionaire, collects work from his popular daily comic strip first published during 2000-2002.
Many conceptual strips fall outside the regular narrative, such as one in which two children kill themselves after watching a Maakies cartoon show on TV. There’s also the series of stories about a circus in which the Siamese monkey twins try to have sex with themselves, and several strips seemingly unconnected to the Maakies world which comment on the transience of life in general. This outpouring of bile represents life as worthless, with only the tiniest glimmer of hope for some sort of better future imaginable in an alcohol-fuelled dream.
The fundamental Maakies concept, and its nod to the tradition of anarchic and yet formulaic strips like Herriman’s Krazy Kat, is watered down a tad by the broader range of strip types displayed here, but on the other hand they do please and surprise from time to time.
Creator Tony Millionaire’s view of the world is decidedly cynical, slightly surreal and very funny in a downbeat sort of way. His work seemed to appear out of nowhere in the mid 1990s, already polished, the timing of the punch lines perfected – or replaced entirely by a deliberately bathetic ending that seems to say “you were expecting this to be funny? Life ain’t funny, pal”.
Millionaire’s central characters, a drunken crow called Drinky and a drunken monkey called Gabby, sometimes lead the action and sometimes simply comment on it; the classic Maakies strip is them shooting the breeze about how awful life is in between throwing up. They exist in an often realistically realized world of pirates and anthropomorphic animals, travelling on a ship run by the rarely seen and thuggish Captain Maak.
Generally people find Maakies hilarious or deeply disturbing – sometimes both! Why not try it and find out for yourself? It looks to the past, referencing many classical cartoonists, while carving out a unique kind of 21st century black humour.